HUNDREDS of hot rodders, drag racers and old timers made their way through the gates of the Auto Club Dragway in Fontana on Saturday 7 May for the annual Antique Nationals.
Now in its 46th year, the Antique Nats has been put on by the Four Ever Four Cylinder Club since its humble beginnings in 1971, when the club broke away from other local drag events to host its own, with a focus on early four- and eight-cylinder racing. Over the years it has evolved to encompass all pre-’54 vehicles and engines, and is now a must-go event each spring.
It’s the perfect place to get your fill of all kinds of vintage machinery. This year rickety Model A Fords rubbed shoulders with fire-breathing altereds in the staging lanes, and racing was closely contested in most classes. A small car display formed, thanks to the pre-’74 priority parking, and those cars not suited to racing still put on a good show for the spectators.
It was all about good old-fashioned quarter-mile dial-in drag racing, and the classes provided some great battles, even if they weren’t all blisteringly fast. The slower classes, such as Inline-Four and Six or Flathead V8, demonstrated the challenges and fun of drag racing at any level, with vintage mills groaning and popping as ’boxes crashed through gears. Some racers were even battling against slippery bias-ply tyres on 15-second runs.
Turn up the displacement and noise a couple of notches and you’re dipping into the 10-second realm, with 60-year-old Hemis and big-block Fords smoking tyres and lifting wheels for some captivating nostalgic racing. Sky-high gassers and tough-as-nails drag coupes provided much excitement for the spectators, with some reaching to plug their ears every time the Fiat altered or the Hazardous Material Model T coupe came howling past.
Hazardous Material was definitely of the toughest units on the day. The vintage drag car had all the right bits and pieces, including huge Hoosier meats, wheelie bars and a twin-carb-fed big-block Chevy. Driven with some serious aggression and skill, it was knocking on its dial-in time of 9.36 pretty consistently, recording a best of firstname.lastname@example.org.
If that wasn’t fast or loud enough, two Nostalgia Eliminator drag rails put on exhibition runs to get the crowd pumped for the elimination rounds in the afternoon. Bobby Cottrell in his Chev-powered black dragster scored two high-seven-second victories over Tom Mardis and his small-block Chev rail, Charlie Sez No.
Robert Vacca of Eagle Rock, California is the current owner of the Rollin Rice Bowl III – a drag roadster built from a T touring body and a Model A pick-up bed. The original Rice Bowl is long gone, but it was one of the winningest altereds of the early 60s, setting the B/A record multiple times, as well as winning its class at the NHRA Nats in Indianapolis and setting three more records there. It was featured in multiple magazines before eventually being dismantled in the pursuit of more speed by its owners Paul Horning, Ernie Murashige and Gray Baskerville (who eventually become a prominent editor of Hot Rod magazine). The tribute that Robert pedalled to a email@example.com on the day was secretly built in the 80s by Pete Eastwood, Tom Prufer and Pete Chapouris (of So-Cal Speed Shop fame) as a thank you for the publicity Gray had afforded them over the years as Hot Rod editor. It was fitted with the original 388ci stroker A/A small-block Chev straight from Ernie Murashige’s shed, and after only new gaskets and refurbished injectors, it was debuted at the NDRA Nats in Fremont in 1986, much to Gray’s delight.
‘Dirty’ Ernie Harmon has been building and racing gassers in Southern California since the invention of dirt. Among his remarkable collection of cars – including a 10-second ’55 Chev altered and a real-steel ’41 Willys coupe gasser – is this ’65 A/FX Dodge Dart. It’s powered by a 426 Hemi with Hilborn injection and nicknamed Ernie’s Shitbox. Unfortunately, after cutting a few laps of the pits area, it didn’t make its way out onto the blacktop at the Antique Nats.
One of three late-40s Crosley wagons at the Nats was this patina-sporting example belonging to Bill Clark. His brother Bobby piloted a bright orange one, while Mike Woodward of Old Farts Racing Team sat behind the wheel of a yellow one. All three were altereds, having some 11- and 12-second fun down the strip – a far cry from the capabilities of the 26hp SOHC four-bangers these cars originally came with.
This rail is powered by a Model A Ford four-banger, though not much of the antique technology remains. While it hasn’t received an OHV conversion (the more popular choice for squeezing performance from a ’banger) it has been fitted with a fully pressurised oil system, modern ignition, alternator and cooling systems, and a little turbocharger mounted to the side – all of which pushed it to firstname.lastname@example.org on the day.
Kendra Flaherty absolutely killed it in her quad-carb 390 Cadillac-powered roadster. It’s a true street-and-strip hot rod; Kendra drove it to the event, raced, and drove home. NHRA regulations require arm restraints and/or roll bars if you run under 13.99 seconds, and Kendra got in a bit of trouble with ‘The Man’ for pedalling a email@example.com through the lights. She was still pretty stoked considering her previous best was 13.7 seconds!
The Flyin’ Brick II is owned by Dick and Kaye Sappington of the Timers Car Club and Team Geezerspeed. It’s a hand-formed body with a tourer rear section and is powered by a Chrysler slant-six out of a US Valiant. With a triple-carb set-up and dressed in bronze-coloured pieces to match parts of the framework, it certainly stood out from the crowd, and was the fastest inline-six of the day.
Kiwi Kev, a genuine New Zealand export now residing in Ventura, was having a wheelie awesome time with his ’40 Willys coupe gasser, Nasty Habit. Though only hitting the mid-12s, he was a crowd favourite due to his wheelstanding antics and squirrelly passes.
The buzz of high-powered four-bangers outputting four or five times their factory horsepower rating; the chest-shaking rattle of open-header racing Hemis crammed into patina-clad classics; the smells of avgas and burnt rubber – the Antique Nats was a sensory overload. Should you ever forget how great nostalgic drag racing is, make a trip to Southern California for the Antique Nationals and you’ll soon remember.
The Four Ever Four Cylinder Club had a few beautifully built cars on display, including these two maroon three-window deuces, both with rare OHV conversions on Ford ’bangers
While there was no official swap meet area, there’s always an old timer to be found selling bits and pieces collected over the years!
American cars tend to come in three sizes: land-yacht, extra-large and extra-extra-extra-large
This neat ’32 roadster was still sporting its factory Model B four-cylinder rather than an early flathead V8
The Crow is a flamed-out ’53 Studebaker coupe with a small-block Chev set so far back you could sleep in the engine bay
This bone-stock barn-find Model A coupe set a blistering time of firstname.lastname@example.org down the quarter-mile
Ron Blanchard’s ’38 Chevy gasser is powered by a blown 301ci small-block. Ron has owned Performance Carb & Speed in Ontario, California for over 20 years
Dave has owned this ’50 Ford shoebox since 1998, fitted with a 460ci Ford and sporting some pretty wide rubber on the rear. He ran with a dial-in time of 15.5sec for the day
This gentleman hails from Pebble Beach, and has attended all but one of the 46 Antique Nationals, racing either this ’banger-powered roadster or his ’40 Hudson Hornet
John Huston’s early-50s Ford coupe was a tough nostalgic racer, putting in a email@example.com with a 0.05sec reaction time
This tough-as-nails Fiat altered was a crowd favourite. It’s powered by a carb-fed big-block Chevy, and ran seriously close to its 8.87sec dial-in time all day
Two motorised bicycles even found track time. Little Miss Attitude was sorta pushed, sorta pedalled, sorta driven to the finish line in just under 30 seconds!
The Balsa Bomber, from Utah, is a hi-po four-banger racecar with a body built out of ¼in-thick balsa framing and a fibreglass shell. It ran a pretty respectable firstname.lastname@example.org on the day
This ’38 Packard was fitted with a Buick Nailhead under its otherwise-stock body. It was good for email@example.com on the day
Moises Vargas’s ’32 roadster is a perfect time capsule of traditional rodding. Powered by a flathead and running all-steel panels, it’s a stand-out amongst the current SoCal trend of pre-war and traditional-styled hot rods
This killer ’32 three-window coupe belongs to Jeff Vodden. With a perfect roof chop and powered by a twin-carb 24-stud flathead Ford, its faded paint and worn body allude to its history as a decades-long Californian hot rod
This super-neat ’32 coupe, powered by a chrome-dressed Buick Nailhead, attracted a lot of attention in the parking lot